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tv   The Chris Matthews Show  NBC  September 16, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT

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>> this is "the chris matthews show." >> in america, we celebrate success. >> i never said this journey would be easy. >> that future is our destiny. >> we are moving forward, america. chris: what made mitt romney throw himself headfirst into a tragic event before he knew the facts? was it the -- to quiet his conservative critics or the push of the neocon line or the 24-7 campaign? even on this dangerous terrain and will voters remember how we look doing it. master and commander, barack obama didn't walk in bearing foreign policy experience and neither did a host of governors like ronald reagan and bill clinton. both earned it in office. could governor romney compete in this league? and obama's luck. he was lucky to run against john mccain who declared the
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state of the economy strong when lehman fell. with the economy weak is obama lucky again that business with mitt romney has changed the subject? i'm chris matthews. with us david ignatius. the bbc's katty kay, "the new york times'" helene cooper and national journal major garrett. foreign policy is the defining issue in this most critical presidential election. barack obama is a democratic president who holds the high ground on national security and that became a problem for governor romney in his charge that the president projects weakness to america's enemies. when he got the nobel peace prize at the beginning of his term, the president decided to use that stage to make clear that even though he was elected as an opponent of the iraq war, he does not shrink from using power in the muslim world. >> religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of islam. and who attacked my country. i face the world as it is.
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and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the american people. chris: but governor romney was suggesting weakness and now the tarke on our consulate in benghazi where four americans were murdered. >> we express immediately when we feel that the president and his administration have done something which is inconsistent with the principles of america. chris: a similar test after the failed mission to rescue the iranian hostages, during the presidential campaign of 1980, governor ronald reagan did not use a vulnerable moment to crilt size president carter. -- to criticize president carter. >> words should be few and confined to our prayers. because of the extremely sensitive nature of the situation, i am convinced that it is and would be inappropriate for me to go beyond the statement i have made to you at this time. chris: david, he certainly looked presidential even then as a candidate. and by not talking at a time of confusion, if you will, this time, however, romney jumped. how do you look at that? >> ronald reagan sounded
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presidential precisely becau he was calm, because he didn't attempt to assert himself. didn't try to take advantage. mitt romney sounded like a presidential candidate in that he was opportunistic. he tried to use the moment. he moved really before the facts were clear. and he hurt himself in a way that is going to take him a while to undo. there's a serious argument that mitt romney should make about american power in the world and the argument is that america's weakness, that barack obama's policy of standing back, of letting these events play out, is leading to ever more disorder and violence. that's an argument the country should have. but it shouldn't have it in the heat of the moment when this comes across really, i thought, as blaming america. and not focusing on the events there. chris: does everybody agree with that? >> it seemed to me what governor romney was trying to do is what david was driving at. but he didn't do that with a
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statement. what he did was inject himself into a fast-moving story that was in libya and what he was criticizing with egypt but he couldn't decouple himself from those fast-moving events. what romney tried to do is start a comprehensive argument about what is the u.s. policy post eye rab spring? he's yet to make that argument and if he doesn't, he's going to look more crass and opportunistic and less insightful. chris: you cover the white house, helene, what was their reaction among the people actually around the president when they saw romney jump on this thing and -- in such an awkward way? >> i think they were shocked. such an unforced and unnecessary error on mitt romney's part. and at that moment, president obama, when he came out with that statement, president obama was talking to having a one-hour conversation with the israeli prime minister on the phone. they were also getting a lot of reports that they knew at that point that the libyan embassy was under siege. they didn't know that ambassador christopher stevens, he was unaccounted for then. there were a lot of fast-moving
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things. the white house didn't react right away to mitt romney's statement. the obama campaign didn't immediately put out a -- sent out an email saying we are shocked that ultr you would politicize something right now -- that you would politicize something right now. >> there is the lure of american politics that you don't criticize the president at a time when the country is vulnerable. and clearly over the last few days the country has been vulnerable. with the embassies, with reports of schools being attacked in tunisia, american schools being attacked in tunisia, this is not the time that you take on the commander in chief. and you have to ask yourself why mitt romney did it? and it gets to a weakness in his campaign about what does he believe? did he do it for pure crass political reasons in order to satisfy the base? or to get -- push to the right by the neo-conservatives? why has mitt romney gone out through the campaign promising a trade war with china, taking on russia as america's most dangerous foe?
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it has the tone being to try to put daylight between himself and a president who is strong on national security issues because he doesn't have a strong position on foreign policy. chris: so who is he listening to? is it ideologues of press attack types or who is it? >> the folks at the highest level of the romney campaign said the governor drove a lot of this. with consultations with john bolton and richard williamson and former state department officials. chris: which comes out of his book. >> the governor saw this as an opening for himself. and in part drove this message and collaborated then with his staff. it wasn't something brought to him and hey, governor, here's an idea. why don't you jump into this? he initiated it within the campaign i'm told. the obama campaign and the president remember not only romney's very different positions on libya as that was developing. you about also when they were negotiating for the release of the chinese dissident gen wajiang. while negotiations were going on romney said it was a day of shame for america when he was released from the embassy and
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put back in chinese custody it appeared. two days later he was released. the president saw exactly that pattern in this libya and egypt pattern and said why he said to cbs, fear first, aim later. chris: david ignatius, you wrote in "the washington post" in your column, romney's comments make this crisis more about america than it needs to be. david, bigger story out there than back here. but he brought it back here. >> here we are all talking about the political aspects. while flames are engulfing so many of these capitals in the middle east. chris: what should we see when we see these people attacking our embassy? >> what we should see is a revolution that's ongoing. this is something that's going to flow through the next years. it's going to have ups and downs. in egypt, in libya, in yemen, all these countries. you have weak governments trying to get their -- to get to their feet. they're not having great success in maintaining order. and you have extremists who would love to exploit the situation. and who are trying to.
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that's what the march on the u.s. embassy in cairo, th attack on the consulate. where extremist groups want to seize the moment. the big fear for a lot of us, i think, is that this is 1979. that you had an islamic government in iran after revolution. you had radicals who thought it was moving too slowly and what do they do? they seize the american embassy. they seize control of the revolution. and we're still recovering from the effects of that. and we just have to hope that doesn't happen again. chris: let's talk about the most important country over there, egypt. with the government not an ally exactly of ours. but the president, our president, has been trying to talk to him into quelling things down. >> that's what's been sort of one of the more amazing things about this past week. is, what happened in libya was a horrible, horrible tragedy with the killing of four americans there. but at the end of the day, what's far more important is what happened and what didn't happen in egypt. because libya is not the center of american national security
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interests. egypt is the linchpin of everything that we're trying to do in the middle east. particularly keeping it going with the camp david peace accord between egypt and israel. and what you saw in cairo was president -- a new president, president muhammad morsi who is of the muslim brotherhood and who the obama administration has been trying for the last 18 months to sort of encourage the arab street and encourage the democracy movement there and back -- and even against our own allies. you saw president morsi stop and take forever. he took 24 hours before he criticized the attack on the american embassy. that's a really long time. and when he did it he did it on facebook. that really infuriated the obama administration. president obama ended up calling him from his hotel room in colorado where he was campaigning. sort of read him the riot act. and that's really disturbing. when you see -- when you see the loss of sort of american influence and american leverage in a place that for 30 years has sort of been one of our
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staunchest -- no matter what you say about the allies, one of our staunchest allies. >> that's the foreign policy comeback to mitt romney's position. because it's not always the case. i think there's a tendency in washington to assume that events around the world are about america. it's not always the case that they are necessarily about america. chris: this weekend, by the way, the attacks about that movie are hitting every western embassy. it's -- everybody is getting struck. >> british embassies and german embassies as well have been struck by that. and i think to kind of assume that, right, well, here is the situation where america needs to insert itself forcefully in order to increase the prospects for american national security interests is not always the wisest course. and i think that's certainly the case with what's happening in post-arab spring. chris: i love the way he talked about it. in all the revolutions we grew up studying whether the french revolution or the russian revolution there are only stages where one tries to outdo the next and get more severe and radical.
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it seems like -- >> this would be the great fear. there's a wonderful book called "anatomy of revolution" by crane britton that you are viewers can find in the library that revolutions get kidnapped. that radical fringes take them over. and then you have a period of greater violence, terror in the streets. and we just have to hope that that historical pattern isn't followed here. but everybody needs to know that it's possible. chris: before we break, next week, we celebrate this show's believe it or not 10th anniversary on the weekends. and through those 10 years, you've joined us each weekend for analysis of events from the run-up to the iraq war through george w. bush's re-election victory over john kerry. through the second bush term. the war in iraq. the feet for the democratic nomination in which barack obama prevailed over hillary clinton. this first obama term in office. as reminder that many of the issues our country faces today were with us then. take a look at how our very
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first show began. a blank check. president bush wants a double barrel of power to go after iraq. the doctrine too brazen? were we warned? and the details on what the c.i.a. and the f.b.i. knew about a possible attack on the world trade center before 9-11:who will take the heat? clinton, bush? or the spies who couldn't see straight? the sounds of the democrats. tom daschle calls the bush economy atrorks but has no democratic alternative. unable to challenge the president's war or his tax cuts, are the democrats afraid to fight for anything? we were debating invasion of iraq back then. the panel on that first show, david brooks, then of the whitley standard and the new republics, michelle cotto. i asked about the advice george w. bush was getting from some of his father's old team. why do the bushies, older bushies tend to be anti-war and maybe more pro arab, is that it? >> etc. not that. they came from an east coast foreign policy establishment that believed in the chess
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game. the more southern southwestern, more conservative, more religiously influenced conservative republicans, believe in morality. and democracy. >> why -- and assert american power. but they don't want to dot cleanup job afterward. -- do the cleanup job afterward. >> that's not true. >> it's true. they talked about nation building and don't want to do that and spread resources. >> that was the old bush in the election and it's clear he's becoming a nation builder. they are spending so much time in the white house thinking about the post-war iraq, that's what they're thinking about. chris: chris: the prime example and still dealing with the same issues 10 years later. while to celebrate our 10 years on next week's show, chime in. we're going to play our top 10 political showdowns in your face moments of the last 10 years. we want your nomination. send us an email at chrismatthewsshow. one word. and here's a couple of examples to inspire you. donald trump's bizarre showdown with the president over the president's birth certificate. >> three weeks alaska i thought
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he was born -- weeks ago i thought he was born in this country and now doubts. people are studying it and don't believe what they're finding. i'm saying it's a real possibility and much greater than i thought two or three weeks ago. then he has pulled one. great cons in the history of politics. chris: trump is system out there. and a quicker moment, remember this showdown. president bush at a press conference over baghdad. what in your face moments will you nominate from the last 10 years? go to our web site. when we come back, is this another example of barack obama's luck in his opponents? are republicans panicked that the guy they chose as most electable might be permanently scarred by his handling of events this week? plus scoops and predictions right from the notebooks of these top reporters. be right back.
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chris: welcome back. barack obama is lucky in his opponents. back in 2008, john mccain was running fairly close to obama at this point in the race. when he committed that unforced error. declaring the state of the economy was strong. and now obama's facing a guy whose strength was going to be the economy but may have shot himself in the foot by drawing attention to his biggest weakness. foreign policy. romney's haste to jump into the issue may have been a response to the desperation of conservatives like laura ingram. >> if you can't beat barack obama with this record, then shut down the party. because this is a gimme election or at least it should be. chris: major, we got three national polls out there. all of them about likely voters. not just registered voters. all taken within a day of this tragedy in libya. it did account for part of that event. and the president is leading in all three. >> this campaign feels things
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slipping away. is quieting itself a little bit by saying well, it's the bounce out of the convention. it will dissipate. and the debates will reset things. what we know about this campaign, though, is that every time there's been a potential to reset it, romney hasn't. he has failed to jump on momentum -- momentous occasions and turn them to his advantage. the president if he haslinda amin done so per sevently and -- if he has has done so persistently and -- chris: does that -- when you take the offensive the opponent has it easy and knocks your block off when you go for it. should romney make a move now or keep his powder dry and wait for his opportunity later down the road during the debate? >> i'm plagiarizing but somebody wrote this week that the romney campaign is a bit like it's chasing after shiny ox. and each time they do that, they sometimes break the bauble. chris: the alternative is to calm down. >> the alternative for the romney campaign is to do what has worked for them. which is when they are focusing on the economy and jobs. and try not to get distracted
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by foreign policy issues. by even past health care issues but keep focusing on romney's strength which in the polls is shown is that when he's told the american people i am the person that is best suited and has the best experience to rebuild the economy and get you jobs back. that's where he's strongest andia see how he's benefiting from talking about other things. this week has been a real problem for him. chris: the danger when he has control, like an entire convention week he's had under his control and blown it with the clint eastwood weird thing and going turnover britain and getting into a fight with cameron. >> i think, chris, the one thing we do know about mitt romney is he's a good debater. we watched him over and over again on the republican debates. do well under pressure. he does sound strong and sensible about economic issues in those debates. and so i would think that the romney camp says we got to get ourselves to october 3 and the first debate. and that's our chance, our chance is to shine then. and we'll just have to see. chris: 100 million people will
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be watching. a good time to shine. >> on top of that, president obama is not a good debater. and that's something that the obama camp -- the people in the obama campaign are very much worried about. i was talking to a white house official last week who said that they feel that they're in a good position. but he brought up two things that he thought could really trip them up. and he said the debates, or something major and nasty happening on foreign policy. we've seen the one already which romney seemed to have managed to grasp defeat out of the hands of victory if i'm going to speak in a completely politically craven way. so it will be interesting to see if he can capitalize on barack obama's not so great debating ability. chris: this big night is coming soon. when we come back scoops and predictions right from the notebooks of these top reporters. tell me something i don't know. be right back.
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chris: welcome back. david, tell me something i don't know. >> the biggest danger in this syrian mess is syrian chemical weapons. the u.s. military is planning
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seriously now for what it would do if it had to go in if those got loose. chris: katty. >> the financial markets seem to think qe-3 might work to stimulate the american economy. but if the romney campaign keeps hitting ben bernanke, then they could start to change their mind because qe-3 is only going to work if people think it's long term and an open-ended commitment. >> president obama ejected a request from israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu to establish a new red line for a strike on iran. >> tens of millions in florida and iowa, new data shows a third of likely voters watch no live television. they d.v.r. and live stream and missing all the ads which means a lot of money is being wasted. chris: ok. and that's my kids, by the way. when we come back the big question of the week. that first debate, what is the toughest question you would ask president obama? be right back.
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but if you really want to make an impact, vote. then, what matters to you and the people you care about will really count. you'll want to vote the more you know.
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chris: welcome back. the first debate just now two weeks away. and this week's big question, what is the toughest question you would ask the president? david ignatius. >> mr. president, why did you risk so much of your presidency on a health care form proposal that was not well drafted, did not have consensus in the congress, and did not have a consensus in the country? chris: katty kay. >> mr. president, what exactly are you going to do over the next four years to boost jobs? the only question that americans are interested in this -- >> mr. president, do you really believe that jerusalem is the undivided -- undivided capital of israel? chris: major. >> mr. president, bob woodward's book, it says that you ordered your economic team not to put housing into the stem luss plan. you've had no housing problems since and one of the chronic problems in the economy, what are you going to do and when is it going to be? chris: the toughest questions
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for mitt romney. thanks to david ignatius, katty kay, helene cooper and major garrett. and that's the show. thanks. we'll see you back here next week as we celebrate believe it we'll see you back here next week as we celebrate believe it or not our 10th anniversary.
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